It is cruel to separate a one-day-old child from a mother, the Supreme Court has said as it ordered a man to immediately hand over the eight-month old to his estranged wife and warned of penal consequences if he failed to do so.
“You took away a new born baby. How cruel can you be? You are not entitled to do so,” a bench headed by Chief Justice JS Khehar on Friday told the advocate representing the husband who moved the top court against the Punjab and Haryana high court’s order giving the child’s custody to the mother.
The SC was astonished to learn that the man had entered into an agreement with his wife while she was pregnant. Signed before the officials of Majitha police station, the document gave the child’s custody to the father in exchange of Rs 18 lakh.
The man’s counsel told the bench that he had already paid Rs 10 lakh to his wife. But, this did not go down well with the court.
“You take away the child under the guise of this compromise,” the bench told him, brushing away his arguments that the woman had given up the custody on her own.
The bench refused to set aside the HC order and questioned the man for being obstinate. “This order (of the HC) was passed a month back. It asked you to handover the custody forthwith. Why haven’t you done it?” the bench asked.
First, it had summoned the husband for a personal appearance on Tuesday. Later, the court withdrew the order after the lawyer said he would advise his client to follow the HC order.
According to the petitioner’s counsel the couple resides in Batala. Due to differences they agreed to part ways at a time when the woman was pregnant.
Despite the agreement the woman reportedly moved the HC in January, 2017, five months after delivering the baby, seeking a direction to her husband to produce the child.
The Supreme Court also rejected the petitioner’s plea that the woman was working and might be unable to look after the child. “So you mean to say that a working mother cannot look after a child. That doesn’t justify you taking the baby away,” it said.